How did Bristol Township, Pennsylvania get it’s name? This page provides a brief history about the naming of Bristol Township, Pennsylvania, the people who settled it, and the industry rising within it.
Located in the extreme southeastern part of the county, bounded northwest by Middletown and Falls, northeast by Falls, southeast by Delaware River, southwest by Neshaminy Creek, which separates it from Bensalem. A sprinkling of Swedes and Dutch, mostly land lessees whose tenure was short, preceded the Quakers as early settlers. The Quakers were ascendant for a period longer than a century, when a shifting in population reduced their proportionate numbers. Some of the English settlers were there before William Penn came. Several very early landowners, as Thomas Holme, the surveyor, never lived there, and their tracts in the course of a decade or two were parcelled and sold to actual settlers. Between Buckingham, Bucks, New Bristol and Bristol, the township was well supplied with names in its primitive days. Both township and town of Bristol were first generally called Buckingham, although the town must have been known as Bristol some years before it was adopted as the corporate name in 1720. General Davis 1 says the township is mentioned as “New Buckingham” in Friends’ Meeting minutes as late as 1705. This is an error. The record referred to by General Davis is found in the minutes of Bucks Quarterly Meeting, as follows: “Falls Monthly meeting proposed the building a meeting house at New Buckingham, which the meeting approved.” This action related to a request, not from Bristol Township, but from Friends in Buckingham Township, as further records prove. As to Bucks as an early name for the township, a minute of the proceedings of Provincial Council, held at the house of Phineas Pemberton in Falls Township, June to, 1697, shows that in the Council’s decision to grant a petition of inhabitants to give Bristol village the status of a town, the township as a whole is called “the Township of Bucks,” which is not strange, the words Buckingham and Bucks being synonymous. The Bucks County Court Jury of 1692, appointed to legalize township boundaries, etc., defined the limits of this township thus: “Below Pennsbury its called Buckingham and to follow the River from Pennsbury to Nashamineh, then up Neshamineh to the upper side of Robert Hall’s plantation, and to take in the land of Jonathan Town, Edward Lovet, Abraham Cox to Pennsbury, and by the same to the place of beginning.” This seemingly judicial sanction of the name Buckingham apparently was not lasting.
New Bristol, Pennsylvania
There is evidence to show that the generally accepted name was New Bristol, though in a few instances this name was improperly applied to the town of Bristol. In a deed dated April to, 1696, transferring 300 acres of land from William Biles to Thomas Adkinson, the tract is located in “the Township of New Bristol.” This tract is known to have been in the township, not in the town. Indeed, it was more than a year after Adkinson (Atkinson) bought his property that Bristol inhabitants were authorized to lay out a town. The name, New Bristol, could therefore not have applied to a place that had no existence. Again, the Board of Property of the Province of Pennsylvania, created by William Penn November 21, 1686, recognized New Bristol as the township’s name, and it is so recorded on the pages of the Board’s Minute Book “G” (1701-1709). New Bristol may have been adopted as the name for the Bucks County township to officially distinguish it from Bristol Township in Philadelphia County. Very soon, by common consent apparently, the word New was dropped, and the name became Bristol Township.
In this township a mile above Bristol Borough was located the celebrated Bloomsdale Ferry and Ferry House, the house being popularly known among travelers in coaching days as the Old Stone Tavern. It is said to have been a charming old Colonial building. The ferry figured importantly in the maneuvers of General Washington’s army in the campaign late in 1776. Here, too, Vice President Aaron Burr crossed the Delaware in his flight southward two days after he had slain Alexander Hamilton in a duel at Weehawken July 11, 1804. Harvey Satterthwaite, who lived at Oxford Valley in 1880, often related the story that Burr, after crossing the ferry, sought temporary retirement at the farm home of Satterthwaite’s grandfather where he remained for some weeks until the excitement in New York over the duel abated! The date when the ferry was established is uncertain. It first appears on record in the deed of transfer of the land to Christian Minnick in 1770, 2 For some years thereafter it was known as Minnick’s Ferry. Lewis Leopold Notnagle, who purchased it in 1795, changed its name to Bloomsdale. It was discontinued in 1840, by which time other craft than ferry boats had almost wholly absorbed river traffic.
Source: MacReynolds, George. Place Names in Bucks County Pennsylvania, 2nd Edition. Doylestown, PA: The Bucks County Historical Society, 1955.Footnotes:
- Davis, vol. I, p. 91.
- Letter of Captain Burnet Landreth to Adjutant General William S. Stryker, of Trenton, N. J., published in The Daily Democrat, Doylestown, Pa., January 29, 1895.